When I arrived in Aspen in the summer of 2005 — back when words like “stoked,” “gnar” and “bro-brah” had no meaning and the term “ski porn” had an altogether different connotation — The Meeting was just another one of the myriad festivals and events that demarcated the seasons as clearly as equinoxes and solstices.
Mountain closing days tell us winter has come and gone. Food & Wine is the official start to summer. JAS Labor Day Fest says it’s the end. And The Meeting — with its vague name and placement smack at the beginning of autumn — tells us that it’s time to get out of town for a month or two in anticipation of winter, but not before getting shit-faced on Red Bull and Bud Light and collectively sroking our adventuresome egos and celebrating how awesome we are for living in a ski town.
But I really, truly, don’t mean to make that sounds like a bad thing. I’m a long way from the slums of Chicago and the concrete jungle of New York City for a reason. Seasons here don’t just have different temperatures; they have different activities, different people, different feelings. And since our summer started somewhere back in February this year, the general excitement for winter has been exceptionally palpable.
Which brings us back to The Meeting. The eight-year-old Aspen Skiing Co.-sponsored event features just about everything you would expect from a pre-ski season fete: the newest crop of ski flicks (featuring stunts and filmmaking that is astonishingly bigger and better than the previous year); parties (featuring the aforementioned extreme beverages of choice); concerts (featuring stoner standards, this year Stephen Marley is one of the headliners); and an annual symposium (open to the public for the first time this year) featuring renowned travel writer and photographer Gary Arndt, photographer Chase Jarvis, Robert Scoble, Silicon Valley tech writer and author with more than 300,000 Twitter followers, and others.
“Back in 2004 when we were looking at new events to put on, we really identified this as a void in the broader ski and snowboard calendar,” SkiCo senior event marketing manager Deric Gunshor told me last year. “There is definitely a party, festival atmosphere to the event, but we’ve been working hard to build the business side.”
The event actually kicked off Thursday night with the NEPSA Awards (that’s Aspen backwards), showcasing local and regional filmmakers and typically highlighting the more humorous side of ski and snowboard flicks. It’s a decidedly raucous way to begin the three-day event, as much of the audience knows someone associated with the films. Locals have even more of a reason to be excited this year, as X Games skiing superpipe silver medalist and valley local Torin Yater-Wallace was in a movie on Thursday, Carbondale Aidan Sheahan is in this year’s offering from Matchstick Productions Films, and Aspenite Colter Hinchcliff stars in the latest TGR film.
But for SkiCo, the benefits of hosting such an event go far beyond getting a little press at the beginning of ski season.
“Re-branding Aspen as a young, hip, friendly place is always at the top of their lists. We also always have discussion about working with many of the film companies for their upcoming projects,” Gunshor says, adding that Aspen/Snowmass is often featured in the films. “And a lot of our partners like Helly Hansen and Red Bull show up, which keeps Aspen in the forefront of their minds. But the biggest benefit for us is getting people excited for the season.”
Winter, after all, is the main reason most of us are out here (though maybe not why we stayed). So the upcoming season is definitely a reason to get stoked.
And by the way, there are just 55 days left ‘til the mountains open.